Meatless Mondays have a long history in the United States. First introduced during World War I, the campaign was aimed at conserving resources to aid the war effort. Patriotic Americans responded with enthusiasm, and nearly 10 million families and 425,000 food dealers took the pledge.
Today, the Meatless Monday campaign, revived by Johns Hopkins School of Public Health, is meant to be a public health awareness effort focusing on both health and the environment.
Going meatless reduces intake of saturated fat and boosts fiber as well as other healthy plant chemicals, which can only improve your health. But giving up meat one day a week isn’t likely to have dramatic results if you spend Tuesday through Sunday chowing down on steak, fried chicken and grilled cheese sandwiches. It does give your diet a good push in the right direction and sets the stage for healthier decisions, though. That’s why the campaign chose Monday as the best day to go meatless. It’s sort of like the January of the new week; studies suggest that people are more likely to maintain behaviors throughout the week if they begin on Monday.
Going meatless for one day each week is a step toward being more conscious of what you eat, too—where your food comes from and how it affects you and the earth. A 1929 article in the Saturday Evening Post said this about Meatless Monday: “Americans began to look seriously into the question of what and how much they were eating.” Today, that question is more important than ever. Every time you choose not to eat meat (or dairy or eggs), it lessens animal suffering and lightens the burden that animal agriculture places on the earth.
Here are ways to use Meatless Mondays to create a real impact:
- Avoid the urge to replace meat with other animal foods. Trading in beef and chicken for eggs, cheese and milk, won’t provide much benefit for your health. Instead opt for dishes based on plant foods like pasta with marinara sauce, stir fries with vegetables and rice, veggie burgers on whole wheat rolls, hummus in pita bread, curried chickpeas and potatoes, vegetables topped with spicy peanut sauce. Look toward Indian, Thai, Middle Eastern and other ethnic cuisine for healthy ideas.
- Eating to save the planet, animals and your health isn’t all about meat. Go the extra mile and replace cow’s milk with fortified plant milks. Spread mashed avocado on sandwiches instead of cheese and try scrambling tofu for breakfast instead of eggs.
- Spread the word. Encourage school systems and local businesses to commit to Meatless Mondays. The more people who go meatless for even one day a week, the better. It’s an opportunity to teach children, in particular, that meals without meat can be enjoyable. And the effect on the environment and animals can be significant. Nearly one hundred years ago, New York City hotels saved 116 tons of meat in just one week by observing Meatless Mondays. Clearly, the world-wide Meatless Monday campaign has the potential to make a significant dent in meat production.
- Make Meatless Mondays an eating adventure. During World Wars I and II, Meatless Mondays were a temporary approach to freeing up resources. Today, sustainable, compassionate and responsible eating requires a commitment to permanent changes. So use Meatless Mondays as a way to explore new foods and recipes that are very likely to become family favorites. You might find that Meatless Mondays morph into healthier and more responsible eating throughout the rest of the week. The more meatless (and dairy-less and egg-less) your diet is, the better it will be for your health, the planet and the animals.